Adam Henrique’s versatility proving to be valuable for the Oilers down the playoff stretch

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Sean Panganiban
1 month ago
It was an interesting time leading up to the trade deadline in March as the Edmonton Oilers were rumoured to be in the mix for players that could add scoring depth to their top six. In the end, Edmonton made a deal with the Anaheim Ducks, acquiring Adam Henrique, who was the main piece of the deal, along with Sam Carrick for draft picks, including a first-rounder. After the trade, GM Ken Holland spoke about their versatility, especially of Henrique, saying:
“Adam shoots left and can play left wing or center. Maybe he tries right wing, so we think we’ve got some versatility and depth. Both guys kill penalties, and both guys can play center, so we feel like we’ve gotten deeper.”
That said, I’ve previously highlighted how Carrick will be an important player for the Oilers in the playoffs. As for Henrique, we’re witnessing the versatility that GM Holland spoke of, as he’s starting to find the back of the net, filling multiple roles while being defensively responsible. As such, he’s on track to play a crucial role down the stretch and into the playoffs, perhaps even more than people first realized.
Since donning the blue and orange, Adam Henrique has suited up in 13 games but only tallied a single assist in his first five games. At the time, some may have felt the Oilers might not have maximized the value of the first-round pick they traded, considering his limited offensive output initially. However, Henrique’s limited point production at first was perhaps because he intentionally chose to take a more cautious approach when he first came to Edmonton.
Now, imagine being traded to a hockey-crazed city like Edmonton, joining a team with Stanley Cup aspirations, and stepping onto the ice at Rogers Place, only to cut corners and cheat for offence. If it backfired and resulted in getting scored on, think of the backlash a player would receive, ultimately affecting one’s confidence. Instead, Henrique carried it out smartly. He went about his business, showed he could play good defensive hockey and adapted to team systems. Consequently, over the last stretch of games, the points have started to come, as he’s scored three goals in his last five games.
Additionally, we’ve witnessed Henrique’s versatility in his ability to play either at center or on the wing. Out of his 13 games played with the Oilers, he’s played seven of them at center. According to Natural Stat Trick, in those seven games, he has a 57% goal share at 5v5, showing that he can hold his own down the middle as a 3C. On top of that, he’s won 59% of his faceoffs within that span as well.
Moreover, the versatile Henrique has played on Leon Draisaitl’s wing over the last five games, and it’s no surprise that his offensive game is starting to shine. Both players are starting to develop chemistry, as they process the game at a high level. Since being placed on the wing on the second line, Henrique’s goal share at 5v5 is 80%, with Draisaitl assisting on two of his goals, against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks over the last week.

Henrique Is Trusted to Play in All Situations

In addition, Adam Bordato made a good comparison on “Oilersnation Afterdark” when he compared the Brantford, ON native to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and dubbing him, “Nuge-Lite,” which is on point. Much like Nugent-Hopkins, Henrique possesses a high hockey IQ, has soft hands and is defensively responsible. As well, despite playing fewer minutes than the longest-serving Oiler, head coach Kris Knoblauch deploys him in various critical situations, just like Nugent-Hopkins.
That said, the 34-year-old has averaged over a minute a game on the penalty kill and Natural Stat Trick shows that the Oilers have only given up one shorthanded goal while he’s been on the ice. Taking a closer look at his excellent work during PK duties, he had an amazing sequence of plays in the last game against the St. Louis Blues while the Oilers were shorthanded. He made good clears and executed an excellent interception while being lone forward on a 5-on-3 penalty kill.
On top of that, he’s being trusted to deliver in offensive situations as well, receiving playing time on the second unit power play. Additionally, in the last game against the Blues in overtime, the Oilers ran a combination up front of Connor McDavid and Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins with Zach Hyman. The third pair consisted of Ryan McLeod with Henrique and they generated a Grade-A scoring chance with Darnell Nurse.

Where Should Henrique Line up to Start the Playoffs?

Based on Knoblauch’s recent line juggling, it’s reasonable to assume that he’ll tinker with various combinations up front down the stretch. That said, Henrique’s versatility certainly offers them multiple options to explore.
However, to start the postseason, I can see him starting on the second line with Draisaitl and Warren Foegele because the trio has the right mix of ingredients to be effective. Draisaitl will have a player in Henrique with whom he can play fetch and make smart plays with, and Foegele will be the forechecker and shooter on the line. As a bonus, thanks to Henrique’s diverse range of skills, which includes winning 59% of his draws, if Draisaitl struggles on the dot or gets kicked out, he can easily step into the faceoff circle with a good chance to win.
Although, as we know, the effectiveness of lines can diminish for various reasons, this is where Henrique’s versatility will truly stand out. If the Oilers need a new look or a shake-up in the postseason, McLeod can move up to the second line while Henrique drops back down to the 3C spot. He can then play with a combination of wingers such as Evander Kane, Connor Brown, and Corey Perry, all of whom have previously performed well on a line with Henrique.
Overall, Henrique is an NHL veteran with over 900 games played. The closest he’s come to winning a Stanley Cup was in his rookie season when he lost in the finals but also tied an NHL record for most game-winning goals in a playoff season. Nonetheless, having played on a struggling Ducks team over the past several seasons, this opportunity with the Oilers is his next best shot at winning a Cup. Expect him to be highly motivated this postseason, especially since he’s just starting to settle in.


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